Senior Tamil journalist J. S Tissainayagam denied allegations that he “admitted his complicity” to an offence in order to gain a Presidential pardon. The allegation was made on November 9, when a delegation led by Presidential Counsel and Senior Legal Adviser to the Cabinet Mohan Pieris answered questions raised by the Committee Against Torture on whether the Convention Against Torture was being properly implemented.
A delegate who said he was “personally involved” in Tissainayagam’s case claimed that the journalist had written to the President saying he was remorseful for his actions. “He had been convicted and sentenced, but his complicity in what he did was confirmed by his letter, which was sent through his lawyers. He did receive a pardon,” a UN press release said.
However, Tissainayagam denied this statement. “I wish to state that any allusion to my admitting complicity is completely false,” he said. He added that he did write to the President to receive pardon, but only to apologise in the event his writing had caused personal embarrassment to anyone. “I am unaware that embarrassing the President or the Government of Sri Lanka is a crime and that was not the crime I was accused of,” he pointed out.
As such Tissainayagam categorically denied that he was complicit in or remorseful about a crime.
Tissainayagam was convicted by the Colombo High Court in September 2008 for “causing communal disharmony”.
They also found him guilty of funding his publication with LTTE money. He was sentenced for 20 years, but was later released following a Presidential pardon.
Pieris was not available when The Sunday Leader attempted to contact him.
Below is Tissainayagam’s full response to the delegation:
It was brought to my notice that [a delegation led by] the former Attorney General and now Senior Advisor to the Cabinet on Legal Affairs, Mohan Peiris, had made reference to me in an official reply to the Committee Against Torture (CAT) in Geneva this month.
This is what was said, “Concerning specific cases raised by the Committee, a delegate said he had been personally involved in the case of J. S. Tissainayagam. Mr. Tissainayagam personally wrote to the President asking for a pardon, saying he was remorseful for what he did. He had been convicted and sentenced, but his complicity in what he did was confirmed by his letter, which was sent through his lawyers. He did receive a pardon.”
I wish to state that any allusion to my admitting complicity is completely false. I did write to the President, the letter which I now publish in full. Working as a journalist for over 20 years I never wrote to cause anyone personal embarrassment. I only wrote to highlight issues of public interest and in the hope the president and the government would take action to rectify the problems. If any of my writings had caused embarrassment to anyone (whether the president or anyone else) I had no qualms in apologizing as causing embarrassment has never been my intention.
I am unaware that embarrassing the president or the government of Sri Lanka is a crime and that was not the crime
I was accused of in the High Court of Sri Lanka in September 2008. I wish to state that I have never committed any crime. Therefore, admitting remorse or complicity to any crime, in this letter to the president or otherwise, does not arise.
24th December 2009
H.E Mahinda Rajapakse
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Appeal for the Pardon
I write this in relation to the conviction and sentence of 20 years rigorous imprisonment imposed on me by the High Court on 31st August 2009 in High Court of Colombo Case No. 4425/08.
I have been a journalist all my life, and as you know, a human rights activist like you for all communities.
The writings for which I have been convicted were never intended to hurt anybody or cause any harm to any person. However, I realise that it may have caused embarrassment to you and to the government of Sri Lanka. I deeply regret this and apologize for same.
I have been suffering from a degenerative eye decease which has been accentuated by my incarceration for nearly 2 years.
I have been married only for a little more than three years and for more than half that period I have been incarcerated. Both my parents are very old and they and my young wife have been badly affected by my incarceration.
I make this appeal to you to please exercise your prerogative and pardon me.
J S Tissainayagam